James 4:2 MEANING

James 4:2
(2, 3) Ye lust, and have not . . .--Better thus: Ye desire, and have not; ye kill, and envy, and cannot obtain; ye fight and make war; ye have not, because ye ask not; ye ask and receive not, because ye ask that ye may spend it on your lusts. It is interesting to notice the sharp crisp sentences, recollecting at the same time that St. James himself fell a victim to the passions he thus assails, probably at the hands of a zealot mob. The marginal note to the second of the above paragraphs gives envy as an alternative reading for "kill": but this is an error. "Ye kill and play the zealot" would be still nearer the original: for, as with Jedburgh justice in the old Border wars, hanging preceded the trial, so with these factions in Jerusalem death went first, almost before the desire to deal it. Lust, envy, strife, and murder:--like the tale of human passion in all ages, the dreadful end draws on. It is written in every national epic; its elements abound in the life of each individual: the slaughter in Etzel's halls overshadows the first lines of the Nibelungen-lied; the curse of Medea hangs like a gathering cloud around Jason and his Argonauts. Is it objected (James 4:3) that prayer is made but not answered? The reply is obvious; Ye ask not in the true sense; when ye do ask ye receive not, because God is too loving, even in His anger. Nevertheless, remember, He gave the Israelites "their desire, and sent leanness withal into their soul" (Psalm 106:15). "I," said He by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14:4), "will answer him that cometh to Me, according to his idols." What greater curse could fall than an eternity of avarice to the miser, of pollution to the sensual, of murder to the violent? Many a man of quiet Christian life will thank God by-and-by, when he knows even as he is known (1 Corinthians 13:12), that not a few of his prayers were unanswered, or at least that they were not granted in the way which he had desired. Safety is only to be found in our Lord's own manner of petition, "Not my will, but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42). Alas! in shameful contrast to this we read of many an evil-hearted prayer offered up to the Lord our Righteousness; invocations of saints for help in unholy deeds; of angels, for acts rather befitting devils of the pit; and can hardly have the conscience to reproach the heathen for supplicating their gods in no worse a manner for no better cause.

4:1-10 Since all wars and fightings come from the corruptions of our own hearts, it is right to mortify those lusts that war in the members. Wordly and fleshly lusts are distempers, which will not allow content or satisfaction. Sinful desires and affections stop prayer, and the working of our desires toward God. And let us beware that we do not abuse or misuse the mercies received, by the disposition of the heart when prayers are granted When men ask of God prosperity, they often ask with wrong aims and intentions. If we thus seek the things of this world, it is just in God to deny them. Unbelieving and cold desires beg denials; and we may be sure that when prayers are rather the language of lusts than of graces, they will return empty. Here is a decided warning to avoid all criminal friendships with this world. Worldly-mindedness is enmity to God. An enemy may be reconciled, but enmity never can be reconciled. A man may have a large portion in things of this life, and yet be kept in the love of God; but he who sets his heart upon the world, who will conform to it rather than lose its friendship, is an enemy to God. So that any one who resolves at all events to be upon friendly terms with the world, must be the enemy of God. Did then the Jews, or the loose professors of Christianity, think the Scripture spake in vain against this worldly-mindedness? or does the Holy Spirit who dwells in all Christians, or the new nature which he creates, produce such fruit? Natural corruption shows itself by envying. The spirit of the world teaches us to lay up, or lay out for ourselves, according to our own fancies; God the Holy Spirit teaches us to be willing to do good to all about us, as we are able. The grace of God will correct and cure the spirit by nature in us; and where he gives grace, he gives another spirit than that of the world. The proud resist God: in their understanding they resist the truths of God; in their will they resist the laws of God; in their passions they resist the providence of God; therefore, no wonder that God resists the proud. How wretched the state of those who make God their enemy! God will give more grace to the humble, because they see their need of it, pray for it are thankful for it, and such shall have it. Submit to God, ver. 7. Submit your understanding to the truth of God; submit your wills to the will of his precept, the will of his providence. Submit yourselves to God, for he is ready to do you good. If we yield to temptations, the devil will continually follow us; but if we put on the whole armour of God, and stand out against him, he will leave us. Let sinners then submit to God, and seek his grace and favour; resisting the devil. All sin must be wept over; here, in godly sorrow, or, hereafter, in eternal misery. And the Lord will not refuse to comfort one who really mourns for sin, or to exalt one who humbles himself before him.Ye lust, and have not,.... The apostle proceeds to show the unsuccessfulness of many in their desires and pursuits after worldly things; some might be like the sluggard, whose soul desireth all good things, and yet he has nothing, Proverbs 13:4 because he does not make use of any means, even of such as are proper and necessary, and ought to be used:

ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain; some, instead of kill, which seems not so agreeable, read envy; and then the sense is, they envy at the good and happiness of others, and covet after another's property, but cannot enjoy it; all such envy and covetousness are fruitless, as well as sinful:

ye fight and war, yet ye have not; go to law one with another about each other's property; or rather, make a great stir and hustle to get the things of the world; rise early, and sit up late; strive who should get most, and quarrel about what is gotten, and seek to get all advantages of one another; and yet still have not, what at least is desired and strove for:

because ye ask not; of God, whose blessing only makes rich: instead of all this worldly stir and bustle, and these strivings and quarrellings with one another, it would be much more advisable, and, in the issue, be found to turn to more account, to pray to God for a blessing on your endeavours; and to ask of him the good and necessary things of life, in submission to his will, and with thankfulness for what he has bestowed.

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